Robert Gaston's intense and suspense-filled "Flight of the Cardinal" (USA 2010, 87 minutes), a Philadelphia QFest world premiere, opens with a quote from anthropologist Dr. Ernest Becker's "The Denial of Death," "Life cannot go on without the mutual devouring of organisms," which well accords with the sense of paranoia that the film, set at a lakeside lodge-shades of "The Shining" and "Psycho"-conveys. Norman Bates certainly comes to mind as we get to know recent New Yorker Grady Wilson (Ross Beschler), now owner of the Blue Waters Mountain Lodge in North Carolina's Smokey Mountains, who has his hands full with the resort.
Grady's friends are coming from New York City for the weekend and he hires young local Beetle Hobbs (David J. Bonner) to assist. Too boyishly good-looking for his own good, Beetle seems to charm his way into everyone's life with the greatest of ease. Coming to the lodge are Andy Myer, Grady's distant boyfriend-played by openly gay actor Matthew Montgomery, winner of one of QFest's Artistic Achievement Awards for 2010, as very much the city guy, far out of place when stranded in the country, and there, in fact, to break up with Grady-and couple Karen Killington (Clare Bowerman) and Rye Manuel (Jeremy Marr Williams), who try to help Grady out of his depression and loneliness, their sometimes rocky past with him notwithstanding.
Beetle is trouble: he seduces lodge guest Roslyn (Liz Douglas), then demands that she pay him for his services, and, for a kickback, creates work at the lodge for plumber Arlis (Z. Joseph Guice) and bad blood between Arlis and Grady by 'losing' Arlis' invoice. A cock-tease and a Pentecostal, Beetle knows his way around potentially lethal medications, as well. As ruthlessly territorial as a male cardinal, he doesn't quite strike us as someone to trust with your property, while you take a short jaunt to New York.
"Flight of the Cardinal" will keep you spellbound and keep you guessing about what reality is and who is really on your side. Check-in time at the lodge, on July 19, is 7 p.m. Just come to the Ritz East, Theater One, at 125 South Second Street, in Philadelphia-it's the closing night of the 16th annual QFest and director Gaston and the cast and crew will be there. Visit http://www.qfest.com for further information.